Research and Development


According to the Frascati Manual, a document setting forth the methodology for collecting statistics about research and development, the definition of research and development is “Creative and systematic work undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge /…/ and to devise new applications of available knowledge.”

Research and development comprises three types of activities.

  • Basic research is experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundations of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view.
  • Applied research is original investigation undertaken in order to acquire a practical aim or objective.
  • Experimental development is systematic work for gaining additional knowledge which is directed to producing new products or processes or to improving existing products and processes.

The aim of the Estonian Military Academy Department of Applied Research (DAR) is to support the enhancement of force capabilities in the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) through scientific research and the generation of novel solutions. The primary assignment of DAR is to lead the development of military science to guarantee the sustainability of capability development in EDF. The Department plans, implements, and monitors the research and development activities of EDF and the necessary resources, carries out and coordinates national and international research and development projects among two or more partners, increases the professional competency of EDF, and organises an exchange of information in the field of military science.

The Department of Applied Research (entitled the Centre of Applied Research until 2019) was established in 2005 and has since carried out 92 research and development projects. The first regulation for research and development that applied to the entire Defence Forces was approved and enforced on 11 May 2017 with Directive No. 98 of the Commander of EDF. The document regulated the objectives, primary responsibility and execution of research. It also served as a basis for organising the principles of research in EMA to make it significantly more purposeful. Amendments included incorporating research funding from outside the defence budget and increasing the competency of research workers of EMA in writing project proposals. Over the past five years, EMA has successfully participated in projects of European Union structural funds, a test program of the European Defence Fund, and various projects of the NATO Science and Technology Organisation (NATO STO). Another memorable success story was participation in the competitive R&D measure of the Government of Estonia, which resulted in establishing the electronic warfare competency centre in EMA. By 2023, the proportion of external finances from the entire funding for R&D had increased to 52%. One of the main changes has been the division of focus to 50:50, i.e. equal focus on high-quality research and supporting capability development with practical developments and experiments.

EMA has adopted a research group-based and interdisciplinary approach to military science and studied it in depth since 2019. The synergy of competencies from different research disciplines is one of the main strong suits of international research led by EMA. Examples include research on novel technology applications, human resources in national defence, and techno-sociology. In 2024, EMA incorporates four international research groups of social studies, which include seven renowned researchers with high-end research impact and authority in their specialised fields and professional competency in Estonia, as well as junior researchers-doctoral students of EMA. As a result of research conducted in EMA, 40 high-quality research papers are published yearly, and ten junior researchers have obtained a doctoral degree over the past five years. In 2018–2023, four employees of the Department have been recognised with high-end research awards, three employees have received a personal research grant, and on three occasions, researchers of EMA have been recognised for their contribution to the research groups of NATO STO.

Peer reviewed scientific publications (field of social studies)

Peer reviewed scientific publications per R&D employee (FTE)
Peer reviewed scientific publications212341373237
Open access publications (proportion, %)867071737241

Source: Estonian Research Information System

To comprehensively develop military science, EMA prioritises cooperation with civilian universities (for example, the University of Tartu, Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn University), research institutions, and domestic and foreign defence industries. Extensive and fruitful cooperation is also visible from the fact that in proportion to the defence budget, Estonia was the leading contributor to the NATO STO workgroups in 2015–2021. As the centre of Estonian military science, EMA coordinates the participation of Estonian researchers in the workgroups of NATO STO. In 2023, Estonian researchers participated in 28 such workgroups.

To enhance academic writing on military science and spread the results of scientific research, EMA publishes two open-access military scientific journals with an international editing board: Sõjateadlane (the Estonian Journal of Military Studies) and EMA Occasional Papers.

Since 2018, EMA has also assumed a leading role in developing military terminology in EDF. To increase its societal impact and ensure unrestricted use, the national defence terminology database Militerm was incorporated into the dictionary and terminology database Ekilex of the Institute of Estonian Language in 2020, and the result is accessible in Sõnaveeb. A military terminology research group was established in 2018, and it includes active servicemen who are specialists in their respective fields and civilian experts who have also provided their services to the European Commission and specialised research groups.